RAY, RONALD EARL

Name: Ronald Earl Ray
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit: Military Assistance Command - Vietnam, Special Operations Augmentation Command & Control North 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces
Date of Birth: 11 August 1947 (Beaumont, TX)
Home of Record: Port Arthur, TX
Date of Loss: 13 November 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 155813N 1070227E (YC184666)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel in Incident: Randolph B. Suber (missing)

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (though it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 13 November 1969, then SSgt. Ronald E. Ray, team leader, and Sgt. Randolph B. Suber, assistant team leader, were assigned to a six-man reconnaissance team operating in Laos in the isolated and rugged jungle-covered mountains near Highway #923 approximately 16 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border,  20 miles west of the infamous A Shau Valley and 50 miles west-southwest of Kham Duc, South Vietnam; Savannakhet Province, Laos.

At 1600 hours the reconnaissance team was ambushed by an enemy force of unknown size. Three indigenous team members were killed during the initial gunfire and SSgt. Ray sustained small arms wounds to his chest and arm. He fell to the ground, groaned then became silent. The initial burst of gunfire also smashed his weapon. The sole surviving team member, Nguyen Van Bon, checked Ronald Ray for signs of life, shook him, but obtained no response.

Nguyen Van Bon reported the last time he saw Sgt. Suber, he was trying to gain contact with friendly forces on his URC-10 emergency radio. While doing so, he picked up his weapon and aim it at four approaching communist soldiers. As he tried to fire it, the weapon jammed and did not fire. Immediately afterward he was struck by enemy small arms fire and fell to the ground. Nguyen Van Bon called to him, but he did not move or answer. As enemy soldiers overran their position, the soul survivor made his good his escape and was later rescued. Because of the continuous enemy presence in the area, no ground search was possible. Ronald Ray and Randolph Suber were immediately listed Missing In Action.

For every insertion like this one that was detected and stopped, dozens of others safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence-gathering waged on foreign soil in US military history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global reputation as one of the most combat effective deep-penetration forces ever raised.

Ronald Ray and Randolph Suber are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

If SSgt Ray and Sgt. Suber died of their wounds, they have a right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country they gave their lives for. However, like other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, if they survived those wounds, their fate could be quite different.

Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military men in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to operate in many dangerous circumstances both on and off duty, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.
 

                                Ronald Ray was on his third tour of duty in Vietnam.